The Real Deal Miami

Contractor behind collapsed FIU bridge sued over deal to build Guantanamo Bay school in Cuba

A subcontractor alleges that MCM failed to honor a "teaming agreement" for the $63M project
By Keith Larsen |
Research by Haru Coryne
April 24, 2018 04:30PM

From left to right: Raul Munilla, Juan Munilla, Jorge Munilla, Lou Munilla, Fernando Munilla and Pedro Munilla

The contractor behind the collapsed Florida International University pedestrian bridge is being sued by a Florida construction company over a $63 million contract to replace a military school in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Islands Mechanical Contractor alleges in the suit, filed in Miami-Dade County Court, that Miami-based Munilla Construction Management (MCM) failed to honor an agreement for the two companies to jointly work on a project to replace a U.S. high school on the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base.

The lawsuit adds to MCM’s legal woes as it faces lawsuits related to the tragic collapse of FIU’s bridge last month that left six dead. The National Transportation Safety Board is currently investigating the incident.

For the Guantanamo Bay project, Islands Mechanical Contractor alleges that MCM agreed to jointly pursue an award of a design-build contract by the United States Navy in October 2015 to replace the W.T. Sampson School. After MCM was awarded the contract, in June 2016, however, Islands Mechanical said the Miami company never honored its “teaming agreement” to work together on the project, according to the suit. It is seeking unspecified damages and prejudgment interest from MCM.

The attorney representing Islands Mechanical Contractor, Bryan Judah, declined comment. MCM did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

MCM, founded more than three decades ago in Miami by Jorge Munilla, and Tallahassee based-FIGG Bridge Engineers, were awarded the $14.2 million contract for the FIU pedestrian bridge at Southwest 109th Avenue and Southwest Eighth Street in 2016. It collapsed March 15, just five days after crews lowered the 174-foot, 950-ton section of bridge into position. Days before it collapsed, a FIGG engineer reported “some cracking” according to a state transportation official, but did not think it was a safety issue.

MCM has previously scored major government contracts in South Florida, Texas and Panama, including the $128 million expansion of Terminal 4 at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, PortMiami’s Terminal F, and the widening and reconstruction of State Road 821. About 90 percent of the company’s jobs come from government contracts.

The firm also has a history with President Trump’s former campaign manager, Paul Manafort. Manafort was helping China’s largest privately owned builder, Pacific Construction Group, identify U.S. construction firms it could acquire, which included MCM. A photograph shows Manafort and Yan Jiehe, the billionaire who heads Pacific, with Jorge and Fernando Munilla of the Miami-based construction firm.